Bloomington deliberates on cannabis-ness

By Katie Fata Oct 25, 2019

Bloomington’s town council deliberated on Monday and discussed the allowance of legal recreational marijuana sales, electing to present an ordinance at their next meeting. 

After Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation to allow the licensed growth, sales, possession and consumption of cannabis for adults 21 and older. 

Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis and the first to legalize commercial sales through the legislature, instead of a referendum. 

“The legalization of adult-use cannabis brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do,” Priztker said at the signing of the legislation.

In January 2020, Illinois residents age 21 and over may possess up to 30 grams, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate or 500 milligrams of THC.

The legislation leaves the decision of sales up to individual municipalities, and councils all over Illinois have been voting throughout October. 

In early October, Bloomington mayor and IWU professor Tari Renner assembled a cannabis task force to discuss, analyze and recommend whether the city should apply for a marijuana license based on public hearings. 

At their Oct. 17 meeting, the force voted informally 6-3 with one member absent in favor of Bloomington allowing the sale of recreational marijuana. 

Their official recommendation at the Oct. 21 council meeting was that Bloomington should allow sales, with the note that seven out of the 10 members of the force favored the decision. 

Members of the force are currently drafting two ordinances to present for a vote at their Oct. 28 meeting— one of the ordinances would outline rules for marijuana sales, and the other would ban sales. Both ordinances would be sent to the planning commission for a public hearing.

In the midst of these decisions, Illinois Wesleyan invited Dr. Ryan Patel, DO, FAPA who works as a psychiatrist at Ohio State University Life Counseling and Consultation Service to speak on campus on Tuesday. 

Patel shared a talk titled “The Effects of Marijuana on Physical and Mental Health” and advertisements encouraged attendees to learn how marijuana impacts the body and brain. 

“It does not feel like a coincidence that this talk took place at IWU while Bloomington is making decisions about selling marijuana in town,” junior Emily Blake said. 

Patel shared statistics and facts with attendees about how marijuana affects mental health, academic performance and physical health as well as the history of recreational marijuana.

The potency of marijuana has been in an upward trend over time as new strains are developed, according to Patel. 

In 1995, marijuana contained about two percent THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects. 

But in 2012, the potency had risen to anywhere between 18-22 percent. Patel warned that in some areas where weed has been legalized for awhile, it was even higher leading to increased effects and putting people at risk for addiction. 

“The talk was educational but there were a few things that caught me off-guard. In terms of the way they were presented and the discussion about some of the facts, I found that it made me want to do some further research on my own,” Blake said. 

At the council meeting, one member brought up the impact legal sales would have on schools in town and encouraged input from Illinois Wesleyan, and it seems as though IWU is already getting prepared. 

“There were a lot of professors and administration at Dr. Patel’s presentation. 

Because of all the talk about legalized marijuana sales in Bloomington, I think a lot of professors were trying to prepare for what it might be like for weed to be sold in a college town,” Blake said. 

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